FHS INCubatored program deemed a success |  Education

FHS INCubatored program deemed a success | Education

The inaugural year of the INCubatoredu business curriculum taught at Farmington High School was deemed a big success.

Christy Pierce, business instructor at the high school, guided four student teams through the year as they set up actual, real-world businesses with the guidance and advice of Farmington business leaders. Farmington is the first school district in Missouri to teach INCubatoredu, an advanced business course normally used in much larger school districts.

“INCubatoredu’s first year could not have gone any better,” she said. “To say that I am proud of this first class in the state of Missouri does not do them enough justice. They stayed motivated and committed all year long to get to the final pitch. Anybody that witnessed the final pitch would have to have seen the work and effort they put into the businesses.

“The curriculum is at such a high level that it is a dual-credit class. Several times throughout the year, I have told the students that, what you are learning right now, I did not learn at master’s level. These are life lessons you might not even get at higher level education. The lessons take them beyond their years of 17 to 18 years old. ”

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This is not your usual business course.

“To build three startup businesses in nine months outside of FHS, in my opinion, would be unheard of,” Pierce said. “They did it, these 12 students. They made three legitimate, running businesses. ”

Each business is developed by a team of four students and Pierce is well-aware that working in teams can be very difficult.

“It’s very hard to navigate sometimes when you have people with different ideas, but all three teams did so with such grace and dignity when they might not have agreed with what one of their team members said,” she said. “That was OK, they listened to it and respected their opinion and came to a consensus and moved on, which is a big scope of that team-building process. That’s one of those real-life skills when you’re in the workforce. You’re going to have to deal with other people.

“In the beginning, INCubatoredu starts with me stepping back and giving them activities to do and a lot of evaluation to figure out personalities. Who is the strong speaker? Who is the strong leader. Who is behind-the-scenes more to the financial side? There were all these different aspects that I kept notes on as I was coming up with the teams. They didn’t choose the teams. I chose them based on all these different personality traits and what they liked and disliked and how they interacted with each other.


Pictured is Farmington High School’s INCubatoredu classroom.

Mark Marberry

“Them not having a choice and me putting them into teams makes it even more special as they didn’t try to formulate the best team they thought. It goes back to that real life experience, you can’t pick every colleague you work with Somehow you have to learn how to navigate and work with this person and respect them even if you don’t agree with them and move on. ”

Diverging from the curriculum

Pierce said she altered the advanced curriculum somewhat.

“I think that in the beginning, taking more time than what was put into the curriculum to study their personalities instead of having them formed the first week,” she said. “That wasn’t enough time for me to study them. I added more activities along the way to see their characteristics. They needed a sounding board.

“We did peer evaluations which was a very formal document, but it was a very open-door policy where we started with journals where they could just write where they are at. How are they feeling? Are there any problems going on? From these discussions, whether it is in a journal or email or one-on-one, we worked through those.I don’t know if that is so much a part of the curriculum, but it needed to be.We needed one-on- one discussions, not just consistent team discussions.

“I kept a very rigid agenda of what needed to be accomplished, especially in the final days before the pitch. We put dates on what needed to be accomplished and who is doing it. Sometimes one person relies on another one and we didn’t need to do that in those final days. We needed to know who was doing what and when. I think that helped, it made it easy to check off that list. On Fridays, we would send a list to the mentors.

“This is what we accomplished this week, this is what we want to accomplish next week. That gave them accountability, the next week we could look back and say, ‘Did you accomplish what you told them you were going to do?’ We also made an agenda to make sure we utilized the time the mentors were here. That was emailed to them prior so they knew what we wanted to discuss and we weren’t wasting any time. “

The winner of the $ 2,000 grand prize was HonorRollEDU, a tutoring company specifically designed for rural areas. Pierce noted the team of four young women worked together perfectly as a team from the beginning.

“They made a fully-functioning website where you could go and book your tutoring sessions,” she said. “They hired their own tutors beyond themselves, and they are one of the first INCubatoredu businesses that ever made an actual profit before making it to the final pitch.”

The other two businesses are PartyNow !, a one-stop party supplier which had already supplied several events, and Taffeine, a naturally caffeinated taffy, which had pre-orders for their product before the final pitch.

Incubatored businesses

Kenzie McAllister, Carter Murray, McKennah Wallace and Ethan Anderson are members of the team that created the business PartyNow!

Mark Marberry

According to Pierce, the $ 2,000 grand prize was donated by board members and community members. The grand prize was awarded by the board of directors at the final pitch, however, there was a last-minute change to the final results.

Incubatored businesses

Peyton Ryan, Landen Reeder, Diep Phan and Cadence King give a pitch for their company, Taffeine.

Mark Marberry

“When the board went back to deliberate, they asked me to come back after a certain time and said they were having a hard time not deeming some type of prize to all the businesses because it was so noticeable how much work had been put in to it, ”she said. “The board wanted to give the other two teams $ 500.”

At the end of the October mentor match meeting, Pierce attested that there wasn’t one community member in attendance who wasn’t willing to help.

“They were so impressed where they were from just August to October,” she said. “All five mentors were very surprised at the level these students were thinking. They were so impressed that they could absorb this type of knowledge and turn it into an actual business at ages 17 and 18 and to run with it.

“When I would walk the mentors out, the reaction was the same. They had the ‘wow’ factor. They couldn’t believe that they had sat there with these students, they were using this terminology, this knowledge; the curriculum was high level thinking. It wasn’t just memorizing what was in a textbook, it was applying them in a real-life setting. “

What will Pierce NOT do next year?

“I don’t know everything went so well,” she said. “I think the timing of the pitches, we may have the first one before Christmas break and the last one before the seniors have to leave early so we have some time to back over some things and finalize. I was very nervous going into the program , not knowing how the teams would operate. They surpassed any expectations that I had. I only hope that the 12 next year are playing on the same field as what these did. “


Farmington High School business instructor Christy Pierce leads her students through Missouri’s first INCubatoredu course which divides the teenagers into entrepreneurial teams who then create actual businesses.

Mark Marberry

Pierce addressed how to deal with future business plans that are similar to the ones received in previous years.

“I have thought that through,” she said. “At first, I will show them the existing business and what made them a unique value of each one of these companies. They would have to prove to me how they differentiate in such a big way to do that.

“They would almost be putting themselves at a disadvantage if they are pitching a similar idea to a board that the community has heard of before. They might be in the same field – competition is a good thing – but they would have to show me what makes them so unique above a previous business. ”

“I knew going into it that Farmington is a very supportive community of new businesses,” Pierce said. “I knew a strong community existed, but how were they going to perceive this program? Was I going to get that community support I needed? Was I going to be able to call an attorney and ask them to pro bono come in and teach and then set and give actual consultations to three businesses when they could be at their offices? I never got a ‘no.’

“When we went into the financial section, it was a very difficult section. A gentleman took all their financial spreadsheets – right in the middle of tax season – took the time, went through and made all of these comments and suggestions. That was such a resource for these students. Farmington surpassed any need of reaching out further than the local community for help. “

Pierce reflected on how this year’s program went as a first run for her, the district and the community.

“This has been a challenging year, launching the program in general, but the community support I have had was above anything I could have imagined,” she said. “We had our mentors, attorneys, CPAs, small business owners, software developers come in and give their advice and expertise in their field, which is priceless.

“It was nice to see all the community members come together at the final pitch, especially our board members who made this program a reality. It’s bittersweet to see our first class of incubators move on, but I’m very excited to see what the next group of amazing entrepreneurs come up with next year.You can view the entire pitch on BKTV’s YouTube site.I definitely encourage anyone to do that.People will definitely not be disappointed, but amazed at what the students accomplished in a nine short months. ”

To view the final pitch on YouTube, go to https://youtu.be/CBPOVYpU0Eg

Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at mmarberry@farmingtonpressonline.com

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